REVIEW: Grinspoon - Cambridge Hotel - Thursday August 31

REPLICATING the power, the energy and the aggression of material written in your teens, must be difficult when you pass that 40 milestone.

It’s especially hard when the material is Grinspoon’s 1997 post-grunge classic Guide To Better Living. You can’t simply phone in songs like Champion, Post Enebriated Society and Sickfest

They’re physically and emotionally demanding, that why Guide To Better Living remains the Lismore four-piece’s greatest album.

These days Phil Jamieson performs in refined venues like Lizotte’s and Pat Davern was nominated for an ARIA last year for best children’s album.

However, from the opening blast of Davern’s meaty guitar riff and Kristian Hopes’ brutal drumming on Pressure Tested 1984, Grinspoon propelled the sold-out Cambridge Hotel back to the distorted days of 1997.

And the crowd lapped up every power chord.

Performing iconic albums is a tricky business. Even the greatest records have weak moments and some album tracks were never suited for live performance. You Am I discovered that four years ago when they struggled to replicate their 1996 classic Hourly Daily.

This wasn’t an issue for Grinspoon. Guide To Better Living was built for being blasted loud and proud to packed crowds.

Boundary, DCx3, Sickfest - the pace was frenetic. The crowd head-banged and first-pumped along with every riff, but with a lot less moshing than 20 years ago.

Jamieson has improved massively as a vocalist since Grinspoon’s early days. Having seen the more mature Jamieson perform at Lizotte’s in recent years it was thrilling to witness the return of his cocksure rock-star persona.

With his eyes hidden behind a long emo fringe, the 40-year-old orchestrated the audience like a puppeteer, while wearing that trademark smirk.

The evening wasn’t just a celebration in nostalgia for the crowd, but for the band too. “Newcastle was the first place outside of Lismore we could draw a crowd,” Davern said. “We played at the Hunter On Hunter and The Palais, which is now a f—king KFC.”

Just Ace, Repeat, Don’t Go Away and Bad Funk Stripe were welcome breaks from Grinspoon’s constant assault of punk riffs and showcased their melodic side.

However, the crowd wanted riffage – fat and juicy. Joe Hansen’s opening bass line on Champion was greeted with the biggest reaction of the night as Jamieson screamed, “so you wanna be a champion?” 

For the encore Jamieson returned dressed in a white shirt and suit jacket as Grinspoon ripped through cuts from their most popular post-Guide To Better Living material.

There was a faster-beating Chemical Heart, Lost Control, Ready 1, No Reason, 1000 Miles, Hard Act To Follow and finally, More Than You Are.

If you have a ticket for Grinspoon’s sold-out return show on September 23 at Wests NEX, you’re in for a treat.